'A grenade exploded inside our family'

By Millie Veitch for Mailonline

01:59 28 December 2023, Updated 01:59 28 December 2023

  • For confidential support, call Samaritans on 116123 or visit your local Samaritans branch. See www.samaritans.org for details

Don French was emotional when he opened up about his father's death when he was 19.

Denise French suffered from depression for many years and tragically took her own life in September 1977 at the age of 45.

Speaking in a new BBC documentary about his life with comedy partner Jennifer Saunders, Dan, 66, broke down in tears at his loss.

The actress revealed that she was unaware of her father's illness as he had kept it a secret from her and her brother Gary, saying that he suffered from headaches and was occasionally bedridden.

She said: 'I grew up with a man who was very happy and cheerful most of the time and then would be referred to as „migraines” in the out house where dad was sleeping and the curtains were drawn and you had to. keep calm

Don French was emotional when he opened up about his father's death when he was 19
Denise French suffered from depression for many years and tragically took her own life in September 1977 aged 45 (pictured with Don)
Speaking in a new BBC documentary about his life with comedy partner Jennifer Saunders, Dan, 66, broke down in tears at his loss.

But I don't know that because he can come out of it and be funny again.

Speaking about his death, Dawn said it was 'shocking and terrible' and left her confused and 'angry'.

She recalled: 'A hand grenade went off in our family and it was shocking and terrifying, the worst thing you can imagine.

„And I was angry and angry, just sad and shocked about everything at that age.”

However, Dan said that as he grew up, he learned from his mother about the pain Denise suffered and came to 'forgive' her.

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Appearing in tears, she said: 'As I grew up, I began to understand the terrible, hellish place he was in, he fought for so long, you forgive me.'

Dan said that Denise was a huge source of confidence and that he was always building her self-esteem.

She said: 'If you're a slightly fat woman, you can go through a huge crack in self-esteem. I think he instinctively knew I needed armor.

The actress revealed that she and her brother Gary were unaware of her father's illness, saying he suffered from headaches and occasionally needed to be bedridden (pictured in October).
Speaking about her death, Dan said it was 'shocking and terrible' but he had come to 'forgive' after learning from his mother the pain Denise went through as she grew up.

'I remember him stopping me as I was walking out the door, he told me I was beautiful and I should respect myself. So I've always thought I was worth anything.'

Dawn has previously spoken about her father, and acknowledging his death has made her question her own mortality.

Appears on A happy place podcast back in 2018, he said: 'Until recently, I thought I'd never make old bones.'

He added: 'Being 19 and losing your dad made me think, „God we might not live much longer”.

'So I grabbed any opportunity I could, but I thought, „I want to be old enough for my daughter to at least grow into her twenties, and then she'll manage without me”.'

However, Dan said he soon realized how harmful those thoughts could be.

She said: 'I was thinking that, it's ridiculous. Maybe that's why I lost my dad so early.

'You know, to think that life is a bit fragile and that it's a bit temporary. We must take note of that.'

For confidential support, call Samaritans on 116123 or visit your local Samaritans branch. See www.samaritans.org for details

Dan said Denise was a huge source of confidence and she was always building her self-esteem (pictured in 2018)
Dawn has previously spoken about her father, acknowledging his death and questioning her own mortality (pictured in 2016)

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